Five Years

This March, Bret and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary with a trip to New York City!

It was such a fun and memorable way to mark 5 years of marriage.

We loved eating authentic NYC bagels (especially with lox and cream cheese!), wandering through a bookstore in Chelsea Market on a weekday morning before the crowds, seeing an original Vincent van Gogh at MOMA, strolling through Central Park, frequenting the M&M store in Times Square, and checking out the view from the Top of the Rockefeller Center.

It was cold, but it was fun. I loved sharing a giant, perfect slice of oreo cheesecake which reminded me of the cheesecakes I used to sell as a fundraiser for my middle school orchestra. And I loved listening to Bret point out places he remembered from his trip marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

The best part of the trip was getting to sit in on the live audience for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

 

I wanted to be in that live audience so badly and it was 100% worth the emotional roller coaster of being waitlisted a week before, getting a last minute spot, nearly having our flight cancelled for snow, and then waiting outside for 4 hours to get a seat. We were so in awe of the studio set details like the awesome chapel style dome with projection images. I loved glancing back and forth between live Stephen and the TV monitors to see how everything looked on the screen. We didn’t get a guest appearance by Jon Stewart, but we got to see Mindy Kaling which was wonderful!

I’m really glad we were able to take that trip. Before I summarize year 5 of marriage, here’s a quick look back through years 1-5 which were full of love and adventures:

Year 1: Lived in Florida and drove to Disney + the beach for day trips.Exported-0034
Year 2: Bret wrote his dissertation, was on the job market, and we went on a cruise! Tallahassee-89
Year 3: Bret got his Ph.D., we moved to North Carolina, and I ran my first half marathon!Aug 2015_2Anniversary_7

 

Year 4: Visited England, Scotland and Wales on the most hilarious bus tour.

And that brings us to Year 5…

This has been an incredibly difficult year. Most days were saturated with grief and pain while I was navigating depression, feeling isolated and grappling with extremely difficult questions. Time kind of dissolved and I didn’t feel like myself at work or with most of my friends, but Bret was always there, validating my feelings. Being able to talk openly has been so vital to my healing. I’ve relied on Bret to stop me when I’m moving down a dangerous train of thought or worrying about something unrealistic. I know I could have survived this year without Bret, but I’m very grateful to have had him here. Of course, no matter how wonderful Bret is (and trust me, he’s amazing), it will never replace the relationship that’s missing. I started crying the last time I heard someone say “hey, come here, I want you to meet my parents!” …because I’ll never get to say that again.

Everything is different. We’ve both had a big priority shifts this year which has been really healthy. We’ve said ‘no’ to commitments that we weren’t totally invested in and now we have more time together to adventure and to stay home. I love our new routines like making chocolate chip brioche french toast and ‘potato madness’ (potatoes, onions, eggs) for dinner on Friday nights. We listen to music and Bret peels and chops potatoes while I make french toast batter and we talk about our days. Another great experience from this year has been digitizing my family home videos in Bret’s office/our guest room. Spending time in that room is so relaxing and I think I love it because it isn’t mine.

I probably could have spent this whole year in my pajamas on my couch (honestly, I work from home, this would have been totally possible) but my mission has been to live the life I want. Just like we’ve said ‘no’ to some things, instead of cowering in fear or further isolating myself in sadness I’ve tried to say YES to new things that make me feel alive.

 

Based on those two pictures Year 5 looks pretty incredible. Together, we said yes to our first trip to Japan, witnessing the full solar eclipse in TN with some of Bret’s college friends, running a half marathon together, and most recently, that short but epic New York City trip. Through the pain, I’ve pushed myself to do things that I think will make me really happy (like going to Disney World) and things that are slightly uncomfortable (like flying solo in a middle seat on a 14 hour flight) because life is meant to be lived.

I say it every year and it’s always true, I love Bret more this year than ever before. I love this marriage we’ve built together. I love all of our adventures. I love writing together and working on projects together. I love the trust and comfort and happiness I feel when Bret walks into a room. I love how he forgives me when I screw up. This has been a horrible year, objectively, but our relationship is so strong and so good. I hope that we have many, many more years together, but I’ve learned that life is short and unpredictable. I’m so grateful for this year that we’ve had together, and, honestly, I’m just going to keep living each one like it could be our last.

Oh, and because I want to document everything these days, here are some videos we made during year 5 of marriage. Check back in a couple weeks because a NYC video is in the works!

Year 4: Life is short & love is forever

Four years ago, while writing my wedding vows, I imagined a future with Bret: traveling the world, writing books together, moving to new cities, and finding adventures. I probably thought about the hardships, too. I figured we’d support each other through challenging careers and hold each other up through life’s struggles, whatever they may be. Maybe in the back of my mind I considered a far distant future after our parents had the chance to retire, travel, and live full lives when we’d have to say goodbye to them, but I never imagined losing my father so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and so young.

My dad is on the forefront of my mind all the time. I miss him so much that it hurts, and this pain impacts every aspect of my life including my relationship with Bret. Bret has assured me, a hundred times, that I’m still me and we’re still us, and we’ll survive this and continue to honor my dad and have him be a part of our lives forever. And I believe that. But still. The ground under my feet is unsteady.

One of the questions in my daily journal is: are you craving adventure or stability? Every year, I write: ADVENTURE! But this time? Stability. Stability because I feel unsettled and unsure of everything I’ve ever believed to be true. Nothing feels real and I’m not my normal optimistic, joyful, or adaptable self. And I hate that.

One thing that doesn’t feel real or make sense right now is time. I know that it’s May, technically, but most of the time, I feel stuck in those early weeks of January, and then I forget what month it actually is. I almost forgot about our anniversary, for example. I remember looking at Bret sometime in early March and saying, “Our anniversary is next week” and it was just a passing thought.

We realized our anniversary was the same day that our car, Sparky, was scheduled for service so we just went together at 7am and enjoyed the complimentary Panera bagels and coffee that Subaru serves while you wait. Then, we had typical work days. I don’t remember what we had for dinner, but after we ate, we opened a couple sweet cards from friends and family. I tried to reflect on the past year like I usually do, but it felt surreal in a bad way. It felt wrong because those past 12 months were wonderful until they weren’t.

In Year 4 of marriage, we:

  • Explored Scotland, England and Wales with new friends
  • Visited Bret’s parents’ in their new Florida home
  • Spent time with my family in a town my dad had always wanted to visit
  • Watched the Olympics (Bret LOVES the Olympics)
  • Celebrated Bret’s birthday in Asheville with friends
  • Attended the first JMU football game of the season
  • Had friends & family visit us in Boone
  • Watched the Gilmore Girls revival together
  • Spent an amazing time in Disney with my in-laws
  • Enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with my family

…but then my dad died. It still doesn’t feel possible. And my heart hearts.

One of my friends described the experience of losing her father as a “crack in the universe” where there is a definitive ‘before’ and ‘after’ and I already feel that so much. It’s impossible not to.

Since January, while attempting to navigate this life that doesn’t make sense, I’ve leaned on Bret in ways I never wanted to. He’s been there through uncontrollable tears and panic attacks. He’s brought me food and water and tissues on demand. He’s let me be angry without being angry in return. He’s dropped everything to drive me to Richmond (a 10 hour round trip), or to watch a family home video (17 of them), or whatever I’ve needed. He helped me set up a shelf in our living room to honor my dad when I decided I needed that done immediately, for example. Just, anything. I’m sure I’d be doing the same things for him if our situations were reversed. This reality we’re living: it’s just something I never, ever anticipated.

At some point when Bret was consoling me for the third time in a single day and listening to my same difficult questions, I told him I felt bad because he didn’t sign up for this, and he just said something like, “Of course I did. Remember that whole marriage vow thing?” which made me cry more.

Days after our actual anniversary, I realized we hadn’t taken our annual photo. It was snowing outside so Bret suggested we just stand outside on the deck. We set up the tripod and wore our matching JMU sweat pants:

Taking this photo felt sad and forced – completely different from every year before. I’m glad we have it now, though, that I see it added it to the collection:


Year OneYear Two | Tallahassee, FL


Year Three & Year Four | Boone, NC

Usually this is where I’d say cheers to year five, but I don’t know what I want for this year. I feel guilty even acknowledging this anniversary, to be honest.

We do have one big thing planned: we’re traveling to Japan. Bret is teaching in China this summer and I’m going to fly over and meet him in Tokyo when he’s done. Part of me wants to stay here, tucked away safe at home, but I have been dreaming about visiting Japan for years, and my dad encouraged me to take this trip from the start and again whenever I shared any hesitation in going. So I’m going for him. And for me. And to try to scrap together any semblance of hope that life can still be an exciting adventure.

Some days that does feel like a distant possibility, other days it doesn’t. For now, I’m just going to stay grounded in the truth that has never felt so true: life is short and love is forever.

Three Years of Marriage

Bret and I have been married for three incredible years.

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I clearly remember driving up from Florida three years ago and wondering if the snowstorm making it’s way through Virginia was going to prevent our vendors and guests from making it to our wedding. The sky was clear and the sunshine was warm and we just laughed because we knew we were heading into a blizzard. It’s funny what you remember. Continue reading